8 Productivity Tips When You Have A Chronic Illness

There is a desk that has a grey top and white beams for support. On top of the desk is an iMac, a white keyboard and white mouse and underneath both of these is a big black mouse mat. There is a faux plant on the right handsome corner of the desk that has a polka dot coaster and on the left hand side is a grey lamp which has a grey notebook and black pen next to it. Next to the desk is a grey desk chair which has a grey pillow.

Photo by James McDonald on Unsplash

Chronic illness can be hard on your mind, body, relationships, but also on your productivity levels. There may have been a time when you could go to school or college, work a part-time job, go to the gym, do chores and be social with your family and friends; however, now you may be lucky enough to have enough energy to make yourself dinner.

You wake up from sleeping and yet you feel like you have not slept at all. You have got a lot of work to do and you are thinking about how you are going to get all your tasks done when you can barely get out bed! Being productive is challenging enough without any brain fog or other symptoms that come with your chronic illness.

I know first-hand what it is like to live with a chronic illness; due to an accident at work, my whole life has changed. You feel weak and that you are not measuring up is probably an understatement! Hopefully, this post is going to show you how you can be productive even with your chronic illness, you can do it; you must never think otherwise.

I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Syndrome due to my workplace accident. I understand that not one chronic illness is more difficult to live with than another. Whichever way you look at it, a chronic illness is just that… a chronic illness and learning how you can live with it and be productive is a massive physical, mental and emotional challenge.

I know what it is like to look around and see others achieving and living their lives and feel like I am falling behind. I know what it feels like to want to make a difference in your life and the lives of your loved ones, but sometimes you feel like a burden. You are not alone in those feelings. On a positive note, I have been trying to take charge and not allow the difficulties and challenges that my chronic illness has given me, dictate my life and what I can achieve and neither can you.

Here are some tips which you can use to enable yourself to have as productive a day as possible:

1. Focus On One Goal At A Time

For some, having multiple goals is something that they thrive upon and they are able to focus on several at one time. You may remember a time when you too could do this; however, when you have a chronic illness, this can be completely overwhelming. You can start by setting yourself smaller goals at first and then progress to bigger goals. For example, start with putting your clothes away, make your bed, or maybe just organise a surface or drawer in your home that you have been meaning to do for some time. No matter what your goal is just make one and go from there.

2. Give Yourself Grace

In today’s society, everyone’s accomplishments and achievements are right in your face. But what you have to remember is that’s the end of their accomplishment. You cannot compare your beginning to their middle or end. Having a chronic illness means that, it is going to take you longer to reach your goals, than someone who doesn’t. This is not telling you that you cannot do something; you have to give yourself grace that it may take a little longer. The sooner that you accept it, the sooner you will give yourself the time and space that you need, so that you can move forward.

On a white work top is a white keyboard at the top of the picture. There is 3 notebooks, the notebook on the top is open with white lined pages. Next to the notebooks is a black pen and a white ruler.Photo by STIL on Unsplash

3. Follow Your Body Clock

With a chronic illness, there can be so many struggles and a change in your body clock is another aspect that you have to adjust to. Setting your alarm for 6am, to spring out of bed and start your day may be no longer feasible. You have to work out when is the best time to work, to rest, to eat and so on. You have to work with your body clock rather than against it. Allocate your most important tasks to when you have most energy. You do not want to set yourself up for failure by pushing yourself with tasks at times that will make them too difficult to complete.

4. Break Down Bigger Tasks

Tackling bigger tasks can be incredibly daunting especially on your bad days, so breaking them down into manageable chunks can make them more achievable. Learning to do this can help you to feel more in control and have a feeling of dread; for example, when you have more physical tasks to complete. You may need to clean the whole house, but by breaking it down into certain rooms or an area of a room each day can help you manage the seemingly overwhelming task. Using a ‘To Do’ List of steps, creating smaller tasks and checking them off will make you feel like you’ve had lots of wins!

5. Relieve Stress And Relax

Stress weakens your body and so you are more likely to feel Fibromyalgia symptoms when your body is under stress. It is important that you take time in the evenings (or when you feel the need) to relax; maybe run a bath or take a nap. Relaxing throughout a task is a great way to stop it becoming too taxing; you could sit down whilst folding laundry. It may take a little longer, but the main thing that you need to focus on is that you achieved your goal.

6. Identify What Your Triggers Are

What are your greatest challenges physically and mentally? What causes you the most struggles? Once you have answered these questions, you can list and plan the tasks that will be manageable for your better days and smaller, less demanding tasks for the days when you may be in the most pain, or have the worst brain fog.

There is a woman in a black t-shirt who is sat at a table with a clear mud of water. She has a notebook open and is holding a pen.Photo by STIL on Unsplash

7. Know When Your Most Time Is And Take Advantage

Knowing when you’re most focused means that you can accomplish the tasks that require the most physical and/or mental energy. You do not need to start completing tasks from the moment that you wake up. You play to your strengths; if you find that you are most productive in the evening, plan the most focus-orientated tasks for this time.

You should take it step-by-step and see which tasks you can handle when you are not feeling your best in order to learn what you can handle on your worst days. This means that on these days, you can still achieve a task or several smaller tasks and cross them off your list, to gain a sense of satisfaction.

8. Create The Right Environment  

When you are working on admin tasks, or maybe you work from home, creating the ideal environment is essential. Limit your distractions in order to avoid procrastination. You want to make sure that the temperature is right because if it’s too cold, it could make your aches and pain worse. If it’s too hot, you could end up dozing off!

Living with 2 chronic illnesses means that I don’t have to spend my days on the sofa or in bed, watching T.V. I want to achieve my goals, be productive and not let my illnesses defeat me or define my life.

These suggestions are not going to cure your chronic illness, but they will help you to feel better about yourself because you will be completing tasks and feeling productive. When you feel better about yourself, it can improve your mood which means that you will have better days. Believe it… you can be productive, you can achieve and you can succeed.

Do you have a chronic illness or know someone that has? What tips would you suggest to help be productive? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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